Arts & Culture

Arts & culture

This year, trucks and other heavy-duty motors in America will burn some 3 billion gallons of diesel fuel that was made from soybean oil. They're doing it, though, not because it's cheaper or better, but because they're required to, by law.

The law is the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS. For some, especially Midwestern farmers, it's the key to creating clean energy from American soil and sun. For others — like many economists — it's a wasteful misuse of resources.

By 1938, clarinetist Benny Goodman was already known as "The King of Swing" — the leader of the most popular dance band in America at a time when swing jazz was America's most popular music. But nobody knew how it would be received in Carnegie Hall, America's temple to classical music.

Where alcohol is eschewed in most places of employment, it's a constant in restaurants. And the late night culture means that most socializing happens at bars after work hours. "We're an industry that's a little bit different," says Mickey Bakst, general manager of Charleston Grill in South Carolina. But this also means restaurant employees are at serious risk for problems with substance abuse.

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Peter Morgan, creator of the Netflix series The Crown, has an unusual take on Britain's royals. He says, "Let's just stop thinking about them as a royal family for just a second and think about them as just a regular family."

Like any family, Morgan says, the House of Windsor has its share of shame, regret and "misdemeanors of the past;" and, of course, "no family is complete without an embarrassing uncle." In the case of the Windsors, the uncle in question was King Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne 1936, paving the way for Elizabeth to become queen in 1952.

We were so shocked and so sad to hear the news that Dolores O'Riordan, lead singer of The Cranberries, died suddenly at the age of 46 on Monday morning.

And now, once again, I bid my hideous progeny go forth and prosper.

Officials in the central Japanese city of Gamagori are warning residents not to eat blowfish purchased from a local supermarket after potentially deadly parts of the fish were inadvertently sold.

The market sold five packages of fish without removing their livers, which can contain a potent neurotoxin. Three of the packages of fish have been recovered by authorities, but two others remain at large.

The promotional campaign for American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, which premieres Wednesday, January 17, on FX, is all gowns and glamour: The camera lingers over a head of Medusa, the designer's internationally recognized logo. We see flashbulbs, red carpets, bold prints, glasses of champagne.

Who can say why some gimmicks take off and others flop? But the Google Arts & Culture app tapped into the zeitgeist over the weekend, until it seemed like just about everyone with access to a camera phone and a social media account was seeking and sharing their famous painting doppelganger.

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And sometimes children's books tell you everything you need to know.

MATT DE LA PENA: (Reading) In the beginning, there is light and two wide-eyed figures standing near the foot of your bed. And the sound of their voices is love.

Can something as simple as saying "I'm sorry" stop a looming war in the Middle East?

That's the premise of a new film called The Insult — it's Lebanon's entry to the Oscars. In it, a neighborhood spat pushes the city of Beirut to the brink of chaos.

Filmmaker Ziad Doueiri says he was inspired by a real-life incident. He was watering his plants on the balcony of his home in Beirut, when the water spilled out onto a construction worker below.

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DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

Eric Motley grew up in Montgomery, Alabama, raised by adoptive grandparents in an area called Madison Park. It’s a place where he no longer lives, but he returns twice a year — to see his hometown, friends and relatives … and to say thanks.

Motley’s story is all about what a good community can do, even when things are bad.

Altering A Species: Darwin's Shopping List

Jan 15, 2018

By genetically modifying organisms, we can now create glow-in-the-dark cats and fish, mice with singing voices, less flatulent cows, carbon-capturing plants,

We're lucky to have a lot of remarkably talented artists deliver impressive performances here at World Cafe (ok, humblebrag). But our whole team was pretty floored by Lizz Wright. The combination of Wright and her band (Bobby Ray Sparks on organ, Brannen Temple on drums and Chris McQueen on guitar) was effortless and elevated, in a way that's hard to articulate in words, but you can experience in a session here.

Protesting Through Poetry

Jan 15, 2018

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What are the different ways that Americans protest? Our co-host Rachel Martin has been asking.

RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: Here's Martin Luther King Jr. in 1955 in Montgomery, Ala.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

It's just before Thanksgiving, and artist Christopher Marley is packing up items for a big exhibition outside Miami. Marley transforms poisonous snakes, tropical fish and exotic insects into works of art — and he just realized he forgot to frame a foot-long isopod that's still in the freezer.

In December 1955, after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus to a white man, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other black ministers and community leaders organized a citywide bus boycott in protest. That part is well known.

Less well-known is the story of Georgia Gilmore, the Montgomery cook, midwife and activist whose secret kitchen fed the civil rights movement.

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Kaveh Akbar Is Poetry's Biggest Cheerleader

Jan 14, 2018

Ever eavesdropped on two poets having a conversation at a coffee shop? Iranian-American poet Kaveh Akbar has created an online space that lets you do that without leaving your bed.

When it comes to tourism, Ireland punches well above its weight.

Leila Slimani's new book, The Perfect Nanny, begins with four haunting words: "The baby is dead."

It tells the story of a Parisian family and their nanny — who starts to unravel, and commits an unspeakable crime.

"I had the feeling that she was like a plate that you put every day on the table, and she breaks every day a little bit," Slimani says. "And one day you put it on the table and she breaks it into pieces."

Jillian Medoff's new novel is an office dramedy involving an elaborate coverup in a corporate HR department that has nothing to do with financial or sexual transgressions. In other words, it isn't ripped from the headlines. Set at a New York-based market research firm that's been cut to the bone by layoffs in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, This Could Hurt is an ultimately heartwarming entertainment about the ways "the work/life firewall" breaks down when a formidable boss — a 64-year-old glass-ceiling-breaker who's both Hispanic and a woman — starts to slip.

Once poverty-stricken and reliant on international aid, India opened up its economy in the early 1990s and has since seen steady, sometimes remarkable, economic growth. Today, by most measures, India is one of the world's largest and fastest growing economies.

Leni Zumas' new novel, Red Clocks, imagines a time in which something called the Personhood Amendment has made abortion and in vitro fertilization a crime in the United States; Canada returns women who slip across the border to seek those services. The novel is set in an Oregon town and it invites inevitable comparison to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.

Is it also a parable for our time? Zumas says the story started out with "some personal anxiety and anguish of my own," but grew into something larger.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A new year means it's time for new calendars. And a North Carolina man has created some of the most unusual you'll ever see.

In fact, they show scenes you once weren't supposed to see — official CIA paintings of past spy missions.

They include a depiction of a spy with a rifle shooting down an airplane from a helicopter, and images of two missions in which planes tried to snatch agents off the ground without landing.

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